F5 Networks incorporates ARX file virtualization into cloud storage

F5 Networks adds file virtualization software to move file, object storage to cloud; launches virtual appliance and open file services API for ARX platform.

F5 Networks Inc. today introduced ARX Cloud Extender to integrate its file virtualization platform with cloud storage, and also added an open file services API and a virtual appliance for its ARX platform.

The ARX Cloud Extender, iControl storage management APIs and the ARX Virtual Edition (VE) are based on technology F5 acquired when it bought file virtualization vendor Acopia Networks in 2007.

The ARX Cloud Extender doesn't require ARX appliances – it's a software application that acts as a gateway to cloud services. The software runs on a local server, and customers can select and dynamically move data to the cloud. The Cloud Extender supports file and object storage and is qualified with cloud storage services such as Amazon S3, Iron Mountain Virtual File Store (VFS) cloud storage and NetApp StorageGRID.

"This is software that's separate from our ARX appliance," said Nigel Burmeister, director of product marketing at F5. "It natively supports multivendors [and] multiplatforms. Today, most computer data that's file based speaks NFS or CIFS. Cloud storage is typically object based so you now have this translational software that can be used as a gateway. It's a heterogeneous gateway that does cloud storage and works with other forms of NAS."

Rick Villars, vice president of storage and IT strategies at IDC, said customers currently either put their data on NAS or in the cloud. "They're forced to make a hard choice," he said. "[ARX Cloud] Extender allows you to do both. It makes it easier to add the cloud seamlessly to your content management application without having to embark on a major reconfiguration."

The ARX VE also separates virtualization software from ARX appliances, and gives OEMs the option of selling it as a software product or installed on a server or another appliance. ARX Virtual Edition is compatible with a VMware host. F5 Networks sees VE as a good fit for branch office and smaller companies.

"Now you can download the brains and functionality of ARX so you can run ARX without the appliance," F5's Burmeister said. "You can use this to do file system virtualization without the appliance. You can load it on any VMware host."

The iControl Storage Management API lets software vendors and F5 customers integrate the ARX file virtualization technology into other applications. Burmeister said the API lets partners implement ARX's file system change detection capability into third-party applications such as search index, backup, auditing and quota management tools. The API supports the .NET, Java and Python development languages.

"The goal here is that there are a lot of high-level applications, such as content management or email or chargeback," IDC's Villars said, "and they want to make it easier to develop applications as a common mechanism with common policies across all applications."

The iControl file services API is available now and is included with F5's ARX platforms. F5's ARX Cloud Extender will available by the end of the year, and ARX Virtual Edition is expected in the first quarter of 2011.


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